Monterey Pop : Some Weekend, Eh ?
This weekend forty years ago I wasn't home, I was up north at
the Monterey Pop Festival. My older sister Pam took me there, as
a late birthday present. I had just turned fifteen the weekend
before. I probably would have missed most of the excitement of
the late sixties had my sister not taken an interest in sharing
My sister was six years older than me and in college, a world I
visited often on weekends. We both loved the music coming up
then, it was a bond between us.
Monterey would take it to another level.
Being in the suburbs of Fullerton, I wasn't really a hippy yet.
My dad had rules about hair length that I hadn't yet defied. Pam
was the wild child, coming home for visits with her hair down to
her ass and wearing Indian bedspread mini-dresses. Her husband
Kirk played in a campus blues band. They were college students
who smoked pot and read Burroughs and had a monkey who got
stoned with them. They were right in the middle of that
"youthquake" demographic. I was a bit young for it all, yet I
had Fillmore posters on my wall and listened to Country Joe and
the Fish and Donovan on my record player at midnight. I was mad
for the Jefferson Airplane. I would sneak down to the local art
store and buy the LA Free Press, a weekly "underground"
newspaper. Reading it late at night I would go into little
ecstacies of excitement at the alternative hippy scene that was
building in LA. So I was primed for a taste of the real thing.
Little did I understand what a bit of history I was heading into
as we drove up the 101 towards Big Sur that Friday.
We got to the campgrounds in Big Sur in the early afternoon and
stowed our stuff. Restless to see what was happening, we headed
into Monterey. We found our way downtown to discover a complete
traffic jam of psychedelically painted vehicles, old pick up
trucks full of dogs and shirtless boys with beards, and of
course the hapless
citizens of this small and tasteful town caught in the middle of
the madness. It was the first time I had seen real hippys...you
know, from The Haight and all. I was particularly dumbstruck by
a bearded young guy in a long robe with jesus hair carrying a
naked baby on his back who had feathers dangling from his/her
long infant curls. You don't see that in Fullerton. The streets
were completely filled with beautiful exotic colorful creatures.
Teeming. I had never seen anything like it. At that moment a
feeling came over me that was to stay throughout the weekend : I
felt like I was on another planet. I felt excited and a little
lost, like I was thrust into a unknown tribe without a clue.
Where was Margaret Mead when I needed her ?